Teacher of the Year: Career change leads to teaching

  • Thursday, March 20, 2014

Staff photo by T.J. Lundeen Hammond Hill Elementary School teacher of the year, Beth Graham, poses in the reading center of her classroom.



Editor's note: This is a continuation of a series profiling local teachers of the year.




The numbers didn't add up for Beth Graham.


Graham, Hammond Hill's teacher of the year, found herself working in the accounting world out of college. After starting a family, she realized her dream of becoming a teacher.


“I kind of always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a teacher, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to commit and go back to school. Finally, I just realized that if I was going to do it, I needed to do it right then, and I pushed myself and got that second degree. I have never looked back; I always knew this is where I wanted to be,” she said


The move to the classroom came because Graham loves to be around children.


“I enjoy teaching and being around kids,” she said. “One of the things in first grade is teaching them to learn to read. That opens up your whole world as far as books, because you can travel to places in books, you can read what you're interested in. That excitement is still there in the younger kids, especially once they realize that they can read about what they want to. It keeps them more engaged.”


In her classroom, Graham is able to introduce her students to a range of topics in her reading stations.


“I love doing science. Nonfiction is the trend in education, which is harder to read because of the more difficult words and sections,” she said. “There are more pieces of the book, that we're trying to put together. ... We're able to tie things into writing and math, which makes it easier for the kids to learn.”


According to Graham, her teaching method is to give the students everything she has to give each day.


“My philosophy in the classroom is to give them my best and get the best from them,” she said. “Their best might vary, some kids may come to school prepared and ready and well-fed and have plenty of sleep, and some kids come to you just as they are. ... I don't make them feel bad for the little things; once they're here, I take them as they are and we run with it and learn together. They come in feeling safe and are able to take in more and retain more information that way. So, I think, what set me apart is that I let a lot of things flow off. I stay calm and that keeps them calm, and we have fun together. I feel like they're engaged a little more.”


As for a return to the accounting world, Graham is set in her role in the classroom.


“This is so much more enjoyable (than the accounting world),” she said. “I love being in the classroom. Even on the days I'm tired or not feeling good, I love my job. Even on those bad days, I don't have a bad day. I know I'm where I'm supposed to be, and I enjoy it everyday.”


T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for The North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.


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